March 19, 2020
How to Make Your Master Planned Community a Destination
Every day, we have the privilege of partnering with developers to create beautiful communities. Collectively, we set out to make these communities stand as somewhere more than great places to live. Our goal is to turn them into destinations.
To get there requires an initial and sustained understanding that a destination is both a stunning physical space, and a brand built to connect with an audience on an emotional level. It’s less “build it and they will come”, and more “build it, brand it, and they will come.”
We operate largely within the latter, where we help establish identity, find unique positioning, and send messages that resonate.
But as we mentioned, destinations are physical and emotional – tangible and intangible. So while we love to polish the intangibles, true destination-communities cover both.
So today, while we think about branding, we invite you to think about building. Here are some of the best physical features of a true destination:
As societal trends step in and out of prominence, they often sway the tide on what residents find most attractive in a community. Walkability is at the crossroads of a couple of these trends.
Most clearly, is the continuing rise of health and wellness. People are spending a promising amount of time and energy taking care of themselves. Of course, dedicated fitness and wellness amenities will most directly supply this demand, but walking space is how a community can fully round out their efforts for self-betterment. It fills a gap in an overall healthy lifestyle.
Because between workouts at the gym and 60-minute yoga classes, people understand and seek out the health benefits in a simple walk outside. Having trails or pathways that offer this, especially in a thoughtful and visually rewarding way, is something that won’t go unappreciated.
Walkability also implies connectivity, and connectivity is a trend working its way onto the short list of homebuyer must-haves. The more residents are able to handle life’s daily demands and desires without having to get in the car, the better. Retail, dining, and grocery within walking distance is a massive value-add, and contributes as strongly as anything to making a community a sought-after destination.
Every community has a “walk around the block.” How does yours feel?
For developers, finding differentiation through product will always be a worthwhile endeavor. Most audiences respond well to their choice of a well-designed home and an equally impressive community at large. These efforts, and many more, help overcome the real estate industry’s looming perception as somewhat generic and unimaginative.
With that said, a beautiful community – on its own – still leaves experiences within that community to be desired. In theater, as a loose analogy, the goal of set design is to support the performance. In communities, experiences are the performance.
And they can range in both frequency and scale, from regular and undemanding – such as fitness classes and happy hours – to semi-annual community-wide events, complete with food trucks, live music, and outdoor games. With experiences, the options are bordering on endless, and we encourage you to get creative.
But no matter the experiences you offer, the effort itself sends an important signal to your audience: You are aware of and committed to the overall customer experience. Specifically, the post-purchase customer experience.
Now, in spite of customer experience (CX) taking the all-too-familiar shape of a buzzword, many brands still fail to dissect and optimize theirs. And most fail in similar ways with their post-purchase customer experience.
If you pay attention to both, you’ll be among brands who understand that true destinations offer more than good living in pretty places. They offer interesting things to do – and under it all – they offer their residents stories to tell.
Note: People are in a hurry to share the interesting things they do. Give them the opportunity, and they will market on your behalf.
Not all amenity-rich communities stand out, but all stand-out communities are amenity-rich.
While events and experiences have impact, residents want access to useful, entertaining, and convenient things to do on a more regular basis.
At scale, amenities become destinations of their own, and drive the sense of destination for the entire community. Not only do they continually remind residents that they made the right decision, they send out a message of livelihood to undecided buyers.
The community with the most popular pool in town? That community becomes the place to be. The community with beautiful parks and gathering space? That becomes the destination. Scenic trails, polished fitness centers, dog parks and lounges? Same story.
To an increasingly loud call, amenities are the proper response. They promise, “Everything you need is all right here. In this place, there is nothing to miss out on – you are living at the heart of what’s happening.”
Design and Aesthetics
Great design, as an overarching theme, is a complement to every other community feature. Because the goal is not simply to offer walkability, experiences, and amenities – it’s to pair those with compelling aesthetics.
The fact is, a destination has to look the part. We know people want to do interesting things – but they want to do them in interesting places. And with standards as high as they are, the importance of placemaking through design can’t be overstated. The destination has to feel like the destination.
And the reach of good design can extend to almost every part of your community – no area is off limits. Thoughtful design can transform homes, walking space, pools, parks, and gyms from customary to remarkable.
Of course, destinations are remarkable. But this is not an accident – they are remarkable by design.
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